Knives and Skin Director Interview

The missing girl. She’s the center of many an American narrative. Yet for Jennifer Reeder, this figure is merely the beginning of a narrative that fades into the background of her film Knives and Skin. The real drama and intrigue of her “genre adjacent” work, as she describes the film, comes from watching how the disappearance of Carolyn Harper spirals outwards and deepens the grief of a small town mired in the quiet misery of suburbia.

Knives and Skin had a long festival run in 2019 from Berlin to Tribeca, Fantasia Festival to Fantastic Fest, and now finally arrives in theaters and on VOD courtesy of IFC Midnight. On the eve of release, I caught up with Reeder to discuss her unique work. Our conversation covered everything from her stylish, colorful aesthetic to the deadpan acting style as well as the heaviness of the material she covers.

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Whether or not you’re familiar with the name Tracy Letts, there’s a strong chance that you’ve seen him grace the big and small screen over the years. After all, this actor/playwright has been popping up in some of the most critically acclaimed films of recent years.

Letts appeared in Lady Bird and The Post in 2017. He wrote the plays Bug, Killer Joe, and August: Osage County, all of which were adapted for the big screen. On the small screen, Letts appeared in several episodes of Homeland, Divorce, and The Sinner.  And in 2019, you can catch Letts appearing in both Ford v Ferrari and Little Women.

Letts opened up over the phone about his roles in those two 2019 films, what he looks for when reading a screenplay, and his favorite sites in Chicago.

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blindspotting clip

Keith and Jess Wu Calder have been going strong for 15 years now. The producers behind Snoot Entertainment set out to never repeat themselves, and mission accomplished because they haven’t. Over the course of their producing careers, they’ve given the world Blindspotting, Anomalisa, The Guest, and more. They’re the sort of producers who make the types of movies they actually love, including their most recent film, Little Monsters (now on Hulu). Directed by Abe Forsythe, it’s a sweet horror-comedy with a lot of zombies, bloodshed, and Neil Diamond fandom.

Look no further than their body-of-work to know they’re producers with good intentions and taste, both willing to take chances. Their most recent productions include Corporate Animals and Blindspotting, and they’re now working with Starz on a TV show based on the latter. Recently, they told us about making the movies they love, experiences and lessons from their 15 years of running Snoot Entertainment, and the films that inspire them.

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little joe trailer

Whither David Fincher? Make room, Paul Thomas Anderson? There’s a (somewhat) new filmmaker on the world stage, Austrian writer/director Jessica Hausner, drawing comparisons to Stanley Kubrick. Her latest film, Little Joe, might be tough to categorize as it incorporates elements from genres like sci-fi and horror while also maintaining an auteurist stamp. But one thing that’s never in doubt is her command of the medium and her control of the story.

The plot itself may sound familiar: a working single mother, Emily Beecham’s Alice, feels torn between duties to her teenage son and her laboratory work. As a plant breeder, she’s on the cusp of a breakthrough on engineering a plant that can chemically induce happiness in its owner. However, her creation might be altering people in a more insidious and imperceptible way à la Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Where the film really excels is in her execution, which is both impressive and eerie in its remarkable precision.

Upon the occasion of a career retrospective at New York’s Film at Lincoln Center, I sat down with Hausner to discuss her exacting visuals and methodical approach to filmmaking. Read More »

dark waters real people

In any other whistleblower drama, Tim Robbins‘ Tom Terp would be a villain. The supervising partner to Mark Ruffalo‘s corporate environmental defense attorney Rob Bilott in Todd Haynes legal drama Dark Waters (opening wide this weekend), Terp is initially skeptical about Bilott’s budding crusade against the big chemical corporation DuPont. Understandably so: One of the biggest clients for the firm where they both work, Taft Law, is DuPont. Both Terp and Bilott are close buds with DuPont’s in-house corporate counsel Phil Donnelly (Victor Garber).

But as the film heads into its eye-opening reveal of DuPont’s history of chemical cover-ups, Dark Waters pulls the rug from under our expectations of Ruffalo, Robbins, and even Garber’s characters.

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Star Wars The Rise of Skywalker press conference

On Wednesday, Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, director J.J. Abrams, and the cast of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker gathered together for the film’s global press conference, fielding questions from moderator Ava DuVernay (Abrams’ friend who gave him some advice about one of The Force Awakens‘ lightsaber fights) and a few from the audience of journalists as well. Here are some of the best moments, including a piece of trivia about Kennedy’s early career that I bet you’ve never heard before.
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Skywatch Short Film

It’s very rare that we cover short films on /Film these days, but when one as impressive as Skywatch comes along, we’re happy to make an exception. The sci-fi thriller short is the brainchild of independent filmmaker Colin Levy, who left his job at Pixar Animation Studios to finish his short about two teen hackers who poke their noses where they shouldn’t, hoping to chase his dream of expanding the concept into a feature-length movie.

His Kickstarter-funded short film debuted online today, and it’s one of the best shorts I’ve seen in years. Check it out below, and read on for our interview with Levy about crafting its stunning visual effects, locking down an A-list actor for a cameo, and more. Read More »

Knives Out Interview

Whether he does it on purpose or not, writer/director and renowned cinephile Rian Johnson has a genuine gift for selecting a genre in which to work, pulling said genre apart to see what makes it tick, and then putting it back together in new and interesting ways to make something that feels genuinely fresh, even though he’s using familiar tools of the trade. He says he’s just trying to make the best version of whatever sandbox in which he chooses to play, and I’d say he’s accomplished just that with film noir (Brick), heist movies (The Brothers Bloom), time travel (Looper), and even the Star Wars universe (The Last Jedi, and let’s be honest: Star Wars is its own genre at this point).

With his latest and arguably greatest work, Knives Out, Johnson strolls through the world of murder mysteries, crafting a modern, Agatha Christie-style whodunit with a family full of lying suspects and just as many false leads, as private detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig, wielding a razor-sharp Southern accent) investigates the murder of world-famous crime novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer), who is found dead at his estate just after celebrating his 85th birthday. Blanc interviews every member of Thrombey large family and the house staff to get to the truth, which may not even be the truth the true killer realizes it is. 

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The Mandalorian Passed Stranger Things

The Mandalorian sounds different from any other Star Wars movie or show we’ve seen before. Gone is the classic John Williams score and the more traditional scores from Michael Giacchino and John Powell. The Jon Favreau-created series embraces its western influences in the soundscape, with some industrial sounds mixed in for good measure.

Oscar-winner Ludwig Goransson scores The Mandalorian. In the last 10 years, Goransson has made quite a name for himself scoring major films like Creed, Creed II, Black Panther, Venom and the upcoming Christopher Nolan film Tenet. Goransson is also part of Donald Glover’s Childish Gambino.

Goransson spoke with /Film about his work on The Mandalorian after two of the show’s episodes aired on Disney+. New episodes of The Mandalorian premiere Fridays on Disney+.

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Waves Trailer

It’s been difficult for me to describe what exactly happens in Waves to friends of mine who know that I love the film but want to know why. Trey Edward Shults’ third film, which is now playing in select theaters and will expand over the coming weeks, finds moving and deeply human drama in the twinned stories of teenaged siblings Tyler (Kelvin Harrison, Jr.) and Emily Williams (Taylor Russell). But the film’s moments of grace come less from what the story is and more from how Shults chooses to tell it, particularly in the ways that the two narratives play off each other.

There’s so much to dig into with Emily’s story in the film, particularly her budding romance with classmate Luke (Lucas Hedges). But in order to discuss their journeys with any level of detail, the conversation has to go into spoiler territory and divulge a major plot point in Waves. Luckily for us, Trey Edward Shults was willing to go there.

Only read past this point if you’ve seen Waves – and if you haven’t, bookmark this page and return to this interview after seeing the film so you can absorb Shults’ wisdom and insight. Spoilers begin now.

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